Classic Target Pistols / Scheibenpistols
The German translation for “target pistol” is ‘Scheibenpistole,’ which is also known for its use as the ‘free pistol’ discipline at the ISSF, Olympic, and World Championships. We use the terms target, free or Scheibenpistols to mean the same type of pistol used for target shooting competition. They all have the same meaning. The 50 meters free pistol discipline is considered by many to be the ‘Queen of all target shooting disciplines’, as it requires the utmost mental concentration, as well as physical control and great stamina when competing. And yes, an excellent fitting, well-balanced and extremely accurate pistol!
The name “free pistol” came about as this 50 meters shooting discipline doesn’t have many rules governing the pistol specifications. The only few being that the pistol used must be chambered for .22 Long Rifle ammunition, may only be loaded with one round at a time, and have conventional open sights. It must also be operated by one hand and not supported by any other part of the shooter’s body. The specialized classic target pistols played an important part in the history of pistol shooting.
I made a distinction between the more modern semi-automatic operated sporting pistols we so often encounter today which are generally meant for the 25-meter range and the fine single shot classic target pistols or Scheibenpistols or Free pistols which were especially made for the 50 meters range. The latter will be our main focus on this website.
The classic target pistol or Scheibenpistol is the most accurate of any sporting or match pistol. We say the most accurate, but this is only true in the hands of an experienced shooter, as they are not only very accurate but delicately made for target shooting purposes only. The Scheibenpistol became very popular during the golden era of target shooting, which was between 1870 and the -late 1930s. It became a popular past-time for both men and women, especially in the European German-speaking countries like Switzerland, Austria, and Germany. These classic target pistols evolved from the flintlock to the percussion system and eventually became single-shot, rear-loading, cartridge pistols of today.
Many makers used different breech systems during the evolution of the classic target pistol, while some artists made a living engraving and improving them. The more expensive pistols were hand-fitted and especially ornamented to the customer’s specifications, nearly all completed pistols parts were made by third-party suppliers who were also highly experienced craftsmen and quite often excellent marksmen themselves. Some of the nicest and rarest examples are to be found across many international borders, although the Germans have made it a large part of their cultural inheritance. The classic target pistol is still being used and enjoyed in competitions to date.
I hope that many shooters and especially collectors appreciate them and keep shooting and enjoying them as much as I do – Arjan van Baggum